Project Updates: What have we been working on so far?

Cardiotoxicity Assessment

The CARMMHA Cardiac Team has developed and tested standardized cardiac health assessment techniques with both managed and wild bottlenose dolphins. Preliminary results were presented at a CARMMHA health assessment workshop in Chicago and publications are now in preparation. We are also working with collaborators at the University of Miami Acute Phase Proteins Lab to validate a panel of  dolphin cardiac biomarkers. In addition, our team finished data collection and analysis of heart lesions in stranded dolphins that were recovered within the oil spill footprint for comparison to reference populations.

Immunotoxicity Assessment

The University of Connecticut continues to refine the statistical approach to the analysis of dolphin immune cell activity and proliferation as well as serum cytokines results from health assessment captures. Efforts are also underway to coordinate serum cytokines analysis with reproductive success.  The team has begun laboratory exposure experiments with mice to investigate the cause and effect relationships among oil exposure, Treg cell function, reproductive success, and adverse effects in offspring. The team also began in vitro exposure of dolphin lymphocytes to oil to understand the direct effects at the cell and molecular level. 

Dietary Assessment

DISL, LDWF, and NCCOS have completed stable isotope analysis of dolphin prey (fish and shrimp) collected from Barataria Bay, as well as fatty acid analysis of dolphin serum. The dietary team has completed mixing model analyses to compare trends in dolphin prey over time and by site. The dietary team has also begun collaborations with researchers outside the CARMMHA team to investigate relationships between dolphin prey trends and movement patterns.

Field Sampling Projects

CARMMHA fieldwork concluded in September 2018.  Spatial analyses, including calculation of utilization distributions and hot spots for the Barataria Bay and Dauphin Island tagged dolphins, are complete. Integration of these data with the genetics results and other projects such as the dietary/trophic assessment are ongoing. Genetic analysis of the data from the CARMMHA fieldwork and previous sampling efforts is ongoing. All sequencing results have been received and bioinformatic analyses are well underway.  

Integrative Modeling

We are preparing for upcoming expert elicitation (EE) workshops, assessing potential updates to our population models, and evaluating new products for oil exposure across space and time since the spill. Experts have been selected and invited to attend EE workshops which will be held in January 2020. Population models which incorporate data from all the CARMMHA projects will be developed following the workshops.